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On the road to Monument Valley

- © canadastock / Shutterstock
West coast of the United States
West coast of the United States

The American dream, between nature and extravagance

West coast of the United States in short

From the orange and red lands of Arizona and Utah, to the rainbow colours of Yellowstone Park, to the green landscapes of the Cascade Range and the white sandy desert of New Mexico, travellers will not be disappointed by the range of colours awaiting them in the western United States.

The valley of Yosemite National Park, California

- © capturelight / 123RF

From the border with Canada to the border with Mexico, visitors experience a sense of grandeur as they cross the Grand Canyon or zigzag between the monoliths of Monument Valley. These sparsely populated states are brimming with natural wonders and are very popular with tourists.

Monument Valley at the end of the day, Arizona.

- © Mariusz Blach / 123RF

A trip to theWest of the United States would be incomplete without a visit to the major cities, such as Seattle, a modern city bursting with energy, Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps, San Francisco and its famous bridge, and Los Angeles, the city of Hollywood.

Seattle with Mount Rainier at sunset, Washington State

- © f11photo / 123RF

The West Coast is also the culture and landscapes of the American Wild West, with its desert plains, breathtaking canyons, ghost towns and sacred Indian territories. From Arizona to Wyoming, this past, so characteristic of the American West, is rooted in the land. A land of road trips, the West Coast, and California in particular, is lived to the rhythm of the road and the kilometres covered.

A contemplative moment on San Francisco Bay

- © Margaret.Wiktor / Shutterstock

Long, desert-like and free-spirited, America's roads are endless and pass through a striking variety of natural gems: mountains, deserts and forests. Route 66 and Highway 1 are representative of these thousands of kilometres without changing roads.

Typical American western highway

- © Volodymyr Tverdokhlib / 123RF

Pancakes or scrambled eggs with bacon for breakfast, a hamburger and chips for lunch, a little snack with a doughnut and a piece of beef to finish the day? American cuisine is famous the world over! A culinary journey awaits you as you visit the fast-food restaurants on your West Coast road-trip!

Typical breakfast in an American diner

- © Edvard Nalbantjan / Shutterstock

The western United States is also home to some of the most unique wildlife in the world! With grizzly bears, coyotes, deer, owls and even seals, walks in the national parks can be full of surprises. Strong emotions, sometimes moving but always memorable, await the lucky ones.

American bison in Wyoming

- © Oomka / Shutterstock

Whether you want to tour the clubs of Las Vegas, surf the biggest waves in Los Angeles, recharge your batteries in Zion National Park or live the American dream, the Western United States is the place to be! For 7 days, 2 weeks or several months, the discoveries are endless and the natural spectacles spectacular.

© klotz / 123rf

How to get there?

To get to the West of the United States, you have to fly. Many airlines, including Air France, American Airlines, United, US Airways, British Airways and KLM, offer flights to major cities. In general, you need to plan at least one stopover, either in Europe or the United States. However, direct flights are available to certain cities such as Seattle, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

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Where to stay?

A road trip means changing accommodation at every stage. And that's what makes a good trip along the West Coast so special: trying out different types of accommodation, from luxury ecolodges to motels, including nights in a camper van for those who opt for a nomadic home. All along the route, there are numerous options open to you, including lodge hotels, which represent a higher budget. Another typically American experience: motels.

These accommodations, which are immediately associated with American culture, remain the great classics for spending the night in different stages of your journey, at a reasonable cost. Camping is another great alternative. Whether it's glamping for those who prefer comfort or real camping in a tent, beware of the regulations in the major national parks, where areas have often been set aside. The perfect mix is to mix all types of accommodation, motel, lodge and campsite, for a 100% Californian experience and to try out every style.

Practical information

🦺 Safety

The United States does not present a safety risk for visitors. Nevertheless, given the deserted expanses to be traversed in the west, caution is advised. The authorities strongly urge travellers not to pick up a hitchhiker. If you are making long car journeys through the deserts of Arizona, it is essential to take along a supply of water in summer and to stay well hydrated at all times of the day. You should also check road conditions before setting off. Some animals can be dangerous, such as bears, grizzly bears or wolves in the north, or snakes in the deserts of the south-west. Fortunately, they are not very curious and you will rarely come across them.

🛂 Formalities and visa

Since January 2009, nationals of visa-exempt countries, including France, have had to apply online for an ESTA travel authorisation (for a fee) at least 72 hours before departure. Travellers can do this via their travel agent and will receive an electronic authorisation in return, which is essential before boarding a plane or a boat. This authorisation is valid for two years or until the passport expires. The new measure, which is one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, is designed to make it more difficult for potential terrorists from countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan and Australia to enter the United States.

💡 Good to know, if you have an old model passport you are subject to a visa, as this type of passport is not machine-readable and therefore not secure under US regulations. However, you can use it until its expiry date. But note that the tourist visa will cost you 80 euros.

The United States requires an individual passport, whatever the age of the traveller. Babies (even a few months old) and children must therefore have the same passport as adults (or an individual visa if the child is on the passport of a parent with a visa). The individual passport for children must be applied for at the Préfecture or Sous-préfecture de Police in the place of residence. It is valid for 5 years.

You need to apply for a visa:

  • if you are using an old-style passport, regardless of when it was issued.

  • if you have a machine-readable passport (DELPHINE model) issued after 26 October 2005.

You are exempt from the visa requirement:

-if you hold a biometric passport.

Since 30 September 2004, fingerprints and digital identity photographs have been required of all foreign nationals, including those from visa-exempt countries such as France.

For more information on the formalities for entering the United States, see the Office's website (www.office-tourisme-usa.com) or that of the US Department of Homeland Security. By telephone, the Visit USA Committee's audiotel service provides information on 0 899 70 24 70 (dial #1).

For information on the different passport models, see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

To obtain a visa: First consult the embassy's website or its voice server: 08-92-23-84-72 (chargeable service). If you have not received an answer to all your questions or if you think you need an appointment, you can call an embassy adviser on: 0-810-26-46-26 (€14.50 per call). You may be asked for an interview. Please allow 4 to 6 weeks for an interview to be arranged.

Please note that visa applications will no longer be accepted by post, except for children up to the age of 13 and people aged 80 and over.

👼🏼 Religion

Protestantism is the majority religion in the United States. Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam are also represented.

💵 Currency

The currency is the US dollar (USD), the rate of which can fluctuate quite widely (small denominations are preferable). It is divided into 100 cents. There are plenty of bureaux de change, but rates are higher at airports than in town. There is no problem exchanging traveller's cheques. All the major cities are well equipped with ATMs and 24-hour banking machines, which allow you to withdraw cash anywhere with any international credit card. Payment by bank card is widespread, but the use of cheques is relatively uncommon. Banks are generally open from 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.

🚙 Transport

With the exception of San Francisco, where walking is highly recommended, the king means of transport is obviously the car, the dream instrument for making the most of the West Coast. There are many rental companies on the market, and prices are reasonable. Unlike in France, the age of majority in the United States is 21, so it is not possible to hire a car under this age. You must have a national and international driving licence. Beware of speed limits (55 mph most of the time, up to 75 mph on certain motorways), as the police are not joking on this subject.

⚕️ Health

No specific vaccinations are required, but very good insurance is strongly recommended (care and repatriation costs) in the event of illness or accident, given the very high cost of medical care in the United States.

💡 Electricity

The standard in force in the United States is 110 V 60 Hz. Electrical sockets have 2 or 3 flat pins, so cannot be used as they are for French appliances. Adaptor essential.

Taxes and tips

The prices of products displayed in shops are always exclusive of tax. State tax must be added. An additional local tax may be applied to hotels in certain towns, for a total that may vary from 11% to 14%. Prices quoted in the service sector (restaurants, taxis) always exclude a tip: it is customary to add a 15% tip to the price quoted. If you pay by credit card, you should add the tip yourself and make up the final bill before signing.

lightbulb_outline Editor's tip

The value of the US dollar can fluctuate considerably, so it is best to use small denominations. There are plenty of exchange offices in the major cities, although rates are higher at airports.

Don't forget to bring adapters with you, as American sockets are unusable for French appliances.

Useful links
USA Tourist Office

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